Puppy development during the first 6 months

Puppies are so cute and loveable but they can also be a challenge. Puppies and human babies are very similar in many ways. They are both growing, developing and discovering the world around them. Each stage of a puppy’s development is an opportunity to create a milestone for learning. 

Raising a puppy can be difficult at times but keep in mind that puppyhood is a marathon, not a sprint. It is impossible to rush the process. With a little work and determination, your puppy will transform into a full grown, well adjusted dog in no time. Here’s what to be prepared for at each stage during the first 6 months of puppy development.

3 months - Socialization

The first 3 months of a puppy’s life is all about introducing them to their surroundings. In order to desensitize them and reduce future fears, it is important to socialize them during these early months. Socialization to people, other dogs and the world around them is key for a puppy’s mental development. When puppies are properly socialized, it helps to build their confidence and eliminate anxiety.

From the day you pick your puppy up, start introducing them to new sounds, household items, people and other dogs that you know and trust. The main goal is to create positive associations and to show your puppy that these new, unfamiliar experiences are a good thing. 

Keep in mind that safety should still be your first priority. Puppies are not fully vaccinated until 16 weeks of age, putting them at risk for catching deadly illnesses like parvo, distemper and rabies before that time. As a result, veterinary experts recommend waiting to socialize your puppy with unknown dogs until after they are fully vaccinated.

Below is a list of great places to start socializing your pup!

  1. Walking down a busy street to get them used to moving traffic and vehicle noise. Pro tip: sit at the bus stop and just watch the traffic go by, rewarding them with treats periodically. 
  2. Take them to a playground so that they can get used to interacting with children.
  3. Take them on a field trip to pet friendly stores. 
  4. Puppy kindergarten is a great place to meet other puppies the same age. 
  5. Pet friendly bars and restaurants.
  6. Local farmers markets. 
  7. Local sports games or concerts in the park.

In addition to socialization, the first 3 months are a great time to start teaching your pup basic commands like sit, stay and come. Consider enrolling in a beginner puppy training class as they are both a great opportunity for learning how to train your pup and a chance for your puppy to socialize with other dogs their own age.

A healthy diet

Puppies require different nutrients than adult dogs. Pups need extra fat, calories, protein and calcium to help them grow and develop. In addition to searching for a diet that meets your puppy’s basic nutritional needs, it is also important to look for a food that has healthy, digestible ingredients. 

Every Kabo meal (fresh cooked and kibble) is formulated to exceed AAFCO and NRC standards for all life stages (which includes puppies!). Kabo uses only healthy, wholesome Canadian ingredients that are balanced and portioned to fit your dog’s specific needs. One benefit of feeding a Kabo diet is that since they are formulated for all life stages, your puppy can continue eating it into their adult life. So no need to transition them into new food when they reach adulthood!

4 months - Teething

Just like human babies, puppies experience the world by putting things in their mouth. Those little, sharp shark teeth will gnaw on anything. As their owner, you must ensure that what your puppy is chewing on is safe for them. If your pup accidentally gets into something they shouldn’t or swallows something that isn’t food, it could be an expensive trip to the vet.

Teach bite inhibition

One of those things that your puppy may try chewing on is you! Your puppy does not think you’re a tasty snack, but instead they are trying to interact and play with you. Chewing on humans makes for bad habits that could be dangerous if they carry the behavior into adulthood. 

When you notice that your little pup starts to bite at your hands and limbs, let out your version of a yelp. This mimics a noise your puppy’s litter mates would have made to communicate that they are hurt. After your pup lets go, stop playing and disengage from the situation. This tells your puppy, “stop, you hurt me, I don’t want to play like that”. Once your pup calms down, rengage and continue playing. If their biting persists, repeat the process. With a puppy, repetition equals recognition!

Teething toys

Between 3-4 months of age is when puppies start to lose their baby teeth and their adult teeth begin to take their place. During this time, puppies will be chewing on anything and everything they can get their little paws on. It is impossible to stop them from chewing all together but it may be helpful to find some safe alternatives for them to sink their little daggers into.

Puppy teething toys are designed as a desirable object to chew while also avoiding broken teeth. The plastic on these toys is pliable enough so that it won't break off in large chunks that can be swallowed. Teething toys also offer great enrichment as they will keep your pup busy for a short period of time. For their safety, always make sure to supervise them while they’re chewing away. According to the American Kennel Club, these are some of the best chew toys for a teething puppy:

  1. Nylabones
  2. NKW cooling chew toy
  3. Kong puppy teething toys
  4. SCENEREAL rope toys
  5. Petstages cooling teething stick

5-6 months - Training & Manners

By 5 months, your puppy is noticeably different from the ball of fluff you first brought home. They may have doubled in size, with changes to their coat and body shape. One thing that will have also changed is their temperament  and demeanor. By this stage, puppies will have gained a lot more confidence in themselves and their environment. This means that they may begin pushing boundaries with you, almost like “the terrible 2’s” stage in toddlers.

By this point, your pup should have learned basic manners and training. Now it is time to perfect that training and teach them the manners required to be a model dog citizen. 

Positive reinforcement and consistency

You wouldn’t go to work everyday if you didn’t get paid, right? That’s also your puppy’s view on training. Training should be a good experience for both owner and dog. This can be achieved through positive reinforcement training. Positive reinforcement sets the groundwork for a task and reward type of training. This method of training is more effective and less stressful than taking a more aggressive approach with your dog. 

Begin the process by determining what motivates your dog. This could be food, toys, or affection. Use this as the reward when your dog responds to your commands in the way you want them too. Eventually your dog will learn that their good behavior comes with a positive reward and they will be eager to complete the task.

If you’re stumped on what to use as a reward for your dog, consider Kabo. Kabo fresh cooked meals are highly palatable and make for an excellent reward as a job well done. 

Once your dog understands your commands, your job is to keep up with the training. Puppies and dogs in general respond well to a routine and consistency. Keep in mind that some breeds may be a little more stubborn than others and may require a little more time and effort.


Maybe the most important thing you can teach your puppy is good recall. This command is crucial, maybe even more so than sit or stay. Having your dog consistently come back to you when you call is so important because it ensures not only their safety but the safety of other people and dogs around them. Having good recall eliminates the risk of your dog running into traffic or approaching another dog that might not be friendly. Keeping your dog close also maintains good manners as not everyone on the street appreciates a strange dog running up to them.

Unsure of where to start? Here are some of our tips for perfecting your puppy’s recall:

  1. Find out what motivates your puppy and use it as positive reinforcement
  2. Decide on a recall word. A recall word should be a short, one syllable word that your puppy cannot mistake. Some good recall words are “come”, “here” and “back”.
  3. Begin working on recall by using your desired recall word and your dog’s name in your home or yard. This limits distractions like new dogs, smells and animals and allows your dog to only focus on you and your commands. 
  4. Once you feel confident in your dog’s recall skills in your own home, you can begin to venture out into public off leash areas. We recommend starting in a quieter area with few other distractions.
  5. For the first few visits, have them on a long lead. Let them venture out and every so often, call them back and reward them.
  6. After you get them reliably recalling on lead, you can attempt to let them off in a controlled area. Do not let them venture further than a 6 foot radius around you. As soon as your dog reaches that 6 foot mark, recall and reward them. 

During the early stages of recall training, your dog will not be absolutely perfect with its commands. Some owners find using a whistle or horn to recapture their dogs' attention works well. With enough consistency, your pup will learn that you are home base and they will be happy to check in with you when you call.

Exercise the body and the mind

You might find that towards the 6 month age, your puppy will try to push boundaries with you and see how much bad behaviour they can get away with. A good way to curb these behaviors is by tiring them out. As we like to say, a tired puppy is a good puppy! This means tiring out both their mind and body. 

Physical exercise is easy as long as you commit to it. Dogs are willing to do most any activity and there are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to exercise, such as:

  1. A run or walk
  2. Swimming
  3. Hiking
  4. Biking fetch

Mental exercise is as or more important than physical exercise. Mental enrichment will not only help your puppy learn and develop mentally but it will also tire them out physically. Some of our favourite mental activities are puzzle games. Puzzle games are designed as an interactive toy where dogs must work to get a treat or food out of the puzzle by pawing, nudging or removing different parts of the toy. 

There are activities you can do with your puppy that combine mental and physical exercise into one exciting and fun task. One great example is dog sports or job training! These activities get your puppy’s body moving and their brain working, killing 2 birds with 1 stone! Check out our list of the best dog sports and jobs you can get invested in:

  1. Agility
  2. Rally
  3. Fly ball
  4. Skijoring
  5. Dock dogs
  6. Search and rescue
  7. Service animal programs

Take home message

Puppies are fun but they are also a lot of work. Time and effort goes into raising a well mannered dog. Remember to be consistent with training and always reward good behavior!